The political Bible is delivered; joy ensues

I felt a little like Navin Johnson when the new phonebook arrived.

My joy was irrational, unrestrained. The 2014 version of "The Almanac of American Politics," the closest thing to a holy book in the business, came in the mail recently.

Overseen by the master, Michael Barone, and ably assisted by Chuck McCutcheon, Sean Trende and Josh Kraushaar, the tome is stuffed with information about every state's political environment and its top elected officials. It is the veritable treasure trove, with nuggets about Nevada that even I did not know or had forgotten. (Who remembers Mark Amodei was in that epic 2010 Senate race for a cup of coffee before the Lowden-Angle-Tark conflgration?)

What I am most impressed about every year is how close to the truth these DC types get about our state and its politicians, capturing the essence of Nevada and who these elected officials really are (not just their voting records). There are always minor errors -- e.g. Harry Reid served two not seven terms in the House. But they get it.

Here are some of the highlights from the new version, with much of the really good stuff in the Brian Sandoval and Harry Reid sections:



It starts well -- Nevada has been a land of boom and bust from its very beginnings as a territory -- and gets better: From mining boom to gambling boom, Nevada has been a second-chance state, a place for outcasts to succeed and misfits to rebound.

And I love this description of taxes under the last three governors, all Republicans, even if Brian Sandoval might not: Taxes were raised, but no income tax enacted, under Guinn and then Gibbons while the public schools struggled to serve a burgeoning population heavy with the children of Mexican and Filipino immigrants; a tax increase labeled temporary was extended under Sandoval. Yes, governor, it was labeled temporary (sunset!), wasn't it?

I am a little dubious of this claim in the state section, though: (Yucca Mountain) surely helped Reid escape defeat when his seat came up in the Republican year of 2010. He beat back a challenge by Republican Sharron Angle and won 50%-45%. Reid beat Angle for a host of reasons; Yucca was not on the list, although Reid's clout did sway some GOP voters, I'm sure.


The governor will be quite happy with his profile: Handsome and telegenic, Sandoval has been heralded as a trailblazer in Republican circles....

On Reid getting him a federal judical appointment in 2005, this parenthetical: (The arrangement also removed Sandoval from contention as a potential Senate challenger to Reid in 2010.) (Sorry, Reid the Younger, but it didn't take.)

After the powers that anoint couldn't clear the field in 2010, leaving Gov. Jim Gibbons and North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon in the gubernatorial contest: With their decision, and with tea party activists gaining strength in Nevada, Sandoval began shifting his emphasis from that of a consensus-builder who could work with Democrats to that of a committed conservative. Despite the state’s dire fiscal situation, he vowed not to raise taxes. He backed neighboring Arizona’s stringent new immigration law that allowed law enforcement officials to detain people suspected of being in the country illegally—a position that angered Hispanics. And he threatened to file suit to stop the new federal health care overhaul. (Actually, Gibbons fled the suit before he left office.)
I was surprised that this apocryphal story, which caused a brief sensation in the campaign, made it: But he angered that constituency further when he reportedly said off-camera during a Univision interview that his children wouldn’t be stopped by Arizona police because they “don’t look Hispanic.” He said he didn’t recall making the remark, but apologized for it. I remember confronting Sandoval about the published report, and he genuniely seemed not to know what I was talking about.
When he agreed to pass the sunsetted taxes after that 2011 Surpeme Court decision: Calling the ruling a “game-changer,” Sandoval reversed himself on his no-new-taxes pledge, prompting outrage from conservatives. But he managed to quiet the storm by scaling back his initial pronouncement and eventually reached agreement with lawmakers for temporarily reauthorizing $620 million in taxes that had been set to expire June 30. Temporary then; seeming more permanent now, eh?
I really felt like Navin when I saw two of my favorite Sandoval references made it: Through his legislative battles, Sandoval remained relentlessly upbeat, earning the nickname 'Governor Sunny.' Veteran Nevada political commentator Jon Ralston wrote in April 2012, 'If Sandoval were more earnest, he would be Eddie Haskell,' a reference to a polite but ingratiating character on an old television show, Leave It To Beaver.
So far, at least: Sandoval had less success on the national stage. He endorsed presidential nominee Mitt Romney only after initially backing fellow Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, and his Republican National Convention speech drew a tepid reception.
Wait until the 2016 Almanac!


Priceless beginning: Democrat Harry Reid, Nevada’s senior senator, is the majority leader and one of Washington’s most accomplished deal-makers, with a record of legislative successes that reflects a mastery of Senate procedure and the psychology of his colleagues. At the same time, his lack of political polish and occasionally brusque manner have incensed Republicans and contributed to some of his torturous reelection races. Among other things.....

And this: Reid was not the Senate’s best orator and not much of a policy visionary, but his colleagues knew him as a crafty parliamentarian who would be a scrappy and effective defender of their interests. Perfect.
Inevitable: But Reid sometimes undercut himself as a leader by resorting to indecorous comments or insults. He once called Bush a “loser” and a “liar,” and Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan “a political hack.” He was quoted in a book on the 2008 presidential race as saying he believed Obama could win because he was a “light-skinned” African-American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” Reid acknowledged making the remarks and apologized to Obama.
I bet Prince Harry cringes at this paragraph: He also has been vulnerable on the ethics front, although he has maintained that none of the issues raised against him over the years have had merit. After a 2003 Los Angeles Times story pointed out that his son and a son-in-law were lobbying in Washington for Nevada companies, Reid banned relatives from lobbying his office. In October 2006, it was reported that Reid had not disclosed a transaction on a land deal that netted him more than $1 million in 2004. Reid said that he had purchased the land in 1998 at market price, and then sold it to a friend’s corporation in 2001 in return for a stake in the corporation. He got his share of the proceeds in 2004, he said, when the property was sold to a shopping center developer. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported in April 2013 that two partners at a Las Vegas law firm made $150,000 in contributions to a super PAC associated with Reid as he considered a member of the firm for a federal judgeship.
This was deserved: And though Reid’s turnout operation helped Obama win Nevada that November, he appeared to be trying a little too hard to help the president when he accused GOP nominee Mitt Romney of having paid no federal income taxes for 10 years. The senator claimed his information was based on an investor at Romney’s former investment firm, Bain Capital, whom he refused to identify. A Romney spokesman called the charge “baseless,” while Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus labeled Reid “a dirty liar.”
You don't see the father-son tension almost opened up very often, but: He defeated Angle 50%-45%, a victory made all the more impressive by the fact that an astonishingly large 2.25% of votes were cast for “none of the above.” Also impressive was that his triumph came even though his son Rory Reid, a Clark County commissioner, was on the ballot for governor and lost to Republican Brian Sandoval.
I give the Prince Harry section an A.



The junior senator won't be unhappy, although the Almanac does trace his route from moderate to conservative to sometimes party thorn: In the Senate, Heller has been unafraid to defy his party. On the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he called for an end to some of the same subsidies to large oil companies that Democrats have sought to repeal. He was the only Republican senator to support a Democratic balanced-budget plan in December 2011, and one of just five Republicans in October 2011 to join Democrats in rejecting an amendment that would have limited the taxpayer liability for mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. He also was one of 12 GOP senators in January 2013 to support raising the federal debt limit. The latter measure included his bill to cut off the salaries of House and Senate members in years they do not meet deadlines to pass a budget or individual spending bills. No Budget No Pay! No way!


This is the best part: Raised in Tifton, Ga., Titus retains her thick Southern drawl. “I get teased a lot because I haven’t lost the accent, but that’s kind of become part of how people know me,” she said in an interview with National Journal. Her upbringing instilled in Titus a strong interest in politics. She recalls listening to local politicians talk shop at her grandfather’s Greek restaurant across from the courthouse. Her father ran for city council, and her Republican “black sheep” uncle, as she puts it, served in the Georgia Legislature.

At least they didn't include that part about how some idiot pundit declared her career over after the governor's race.


I'd quibble with a couple of things in this section.

In 2003, Amodei worked with Democrats in the legislature on a comprehensive tax bill, something that later drew criticism during his campaign for the U.S. House seat. The measure would have raised taxes to bring in revenues of an estimated $900 million over two years. (This was the Care-Amodei bill, presented as an alternative to the infamous gross receipts tax. But not too many Democrats really were on board.) In 2007, Amodei took a job as president of the Nevada Mining Association. He said at the time that he saw no conflict of interest with his work as a senator, but a year and a half later, he stepped down from the organization because he said he didn’t want to have a “distracting” dual role during the upcoming legislative session. Yes, distracting.

This may not be completely fair, although Amodei has tried to, ahem, clarify some of his statements on the dump: He notably broke decades of Nevada political solidarity against the proposed Yucca Mountain burial site for high-level nuclear waste storage by suggesting the site be examined as a potential home for nuclear reprocessing and research. That position is not really different than that of the others.


Didn't know all of this: Heck was born in Queens, N.Y., and raised in Pennsylvania in a tight-knit family where he says he learned the values of service and giving back. As a young man, he became a volunteer firefighter and ambulance attendant. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in health education, he got a doctorate of osteopathy from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, and went on to complete a residency in emergency medicine at the Albert Einstein Medical Center. In 1992, his work took him to southern Nevada.

New York, eh?


Love this: He became the face of the Democratic opposition to the state’s Republican governor, Brian Sandoval. But in 2011, Horsford worked with Sandoval on a budget compromise that introduced new taxes on business while ending teacher tenure and modifying the state’s collective bargaining law. Oh, yes, they worked together all right -- only in the session's final days and only after that Supreme Court decision forced a compromise. That session was headed for a train wreck if the deus ex machina from the court building hadn't arrived.

Bet the freshman loves seeing this in there: Horsford’s Senate career was not without controversy. He came under fire in 2010 when he offered dinners with himself and committee chairmen in exchange for campaign donations. Although the Secretary of State’s office determined the letter did not violate state election law, Horsford returned the donations. He also had to reimburse PokerStars, a British online gambling group aiming to legalize the practice in Nevada, for a trip he took to the Bahamas “to learn more about Internet gaming policy before federal and state governments.”

Ah, campaign fodder.

Beyond the descriptions, there is a ton of useful, interesting information in the Almanac, including demographic data about the state and voting records and ratings on the elected officials. If you are interestedi n the politics of your state -- or a junkie who wants to know about all of them -- get on Amazon and order it.
You might not feel my joy when it arrives, but you will not be disappointed.